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Laws against the sexual assault of animals

2020 U.S. Animal Protection Laws State Rankings

Select an animal law category to view 2020 trends:

Prohibitions on Sexual Assault

◼︎Has a law banning sexual abuse of animals
◼︎Has a law criminalizing “crimes against nature”
or otherwise inadequately defined bestiality statute
◼︎ Has no law addressing sexual assault of animals

Laws prohibiting the sexual assault of animals vary widely from state to state. Four states—Hawaii, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming—still do not have any laws prohibiting the sexual assault of animals. In those states, sexual assault could still be prosecuted as animal cruelty if the animal suffers some physical harm, but that is still grossly insufficient to address the issue.

Even if the state prohibits sexual assault of animals, the laws may be weak. Thirteen states have antiquated laws which prohibit vague, undefined crimes such as the “abominable crime against nature,” or otherwise fail to adequately define the crime. Not only are such statutes difficult to enforce due to their vagueness, but they are also usually closely tied to unconstitutional sodomy laws.

A growing number of states are updating and strengthening their bestiality laws, bringing them into the 21st century. In 2020, five states strengthened their laws addressing sexual assault of animals. In particular, Wisconsin completely overhauled their bestiality law, providing comprehensive definitions and elevating the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.

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